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Halloween 2019

It comes around every year and with each year it gets bigger, scarier and seems to go on for longer … Halloween … the one night of the year when it seems we are allowed to dress up in scary outfits, have fun parties and scare one another with activities and more. At the same time as the parties get bigger and the marketing campaigns widen their net, it is great to see that there is a safety net for those who want to be scared in the safest possible way – at home, school, in the nursery or library, among friends or family – books of course! And a book is not just for Halloween, even if it does have a fearsome or scary theme - of course it may help. Dark winter nights help make a story even scarier so why not take advantage of the dark, the cold and the potential for being scared and delve into one of the following selection?

The following is by no means an exhaustive selection, but some highlights from the most recent publishing across the age groups.

For the very youngest who may not quite grasp the concept of Halloween just yet, why not give them a complete learning experience with one of Usborne’s delightful touchy feely That’s Not My Bat … by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells. In reality it would be uncommon to touch and feel a bat – they are small, delicate creatures who live in trees, rafters and are often protected, but it is important for children to understand about these delicate creatures and explore their senses at the same time.

Another Usborne title and one that has both original illustrations from the late Stephen Cartwright and new ones from Simon Taylor-Kielty is Poppy and Sam’s Halloween Party. Children are likely to be familiar with this delightful duo and their various adventures in their growing series of books. This title finds Poppy and Sam celebrating Halloween with their own party.

In Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale, Lynne Marie, David Rodriguez Lorenzo, (Sterling Children’s Books) Papa, Mama and baby Scare live in a huge haunted hose, so huge it has room for four … papa makes enough sliced finger sandwiches and alpha-bat soup for four, mama mixing her potions in the lab would love an assistant and baby just wants a friend to play with – sweeping up bats is only so much fun on your own! A fabulous take on a traditional tale perfectly timed for Halloween but ready to read at any time. With vibrant and bright illustration which is realistic without being in the slightest bit scary. A little bit spooky, a little bit – this might make you jump – but very much a great story with wonderfully rhyming text, some great refrains and two important messages about belonging and adoption.

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet love to write about food, but when they do so it is not cookery books that they are writing but fun stories for children involving all the types of food they usually love to hate! Now, particularly at this time of year the humble pumpkin is usually used for carving on Halloween, or later in November for pumpkin pie as part of Thanksgiving celebrations but here we find meet Christopher Pumpkin who has been magically bought to life by a witch – great you would think but think again for this pumpkin is not looking forward to the promise of a seriously spooky party in a real haunted castle – what is a pumpkin to do?! Christopher Pumpkin is written an illustrated by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, published by Scholastic Children’s Books.

Dracula Spectacular is a story written by Lucy Rowland that, thanks to Ben Mantle its illustrator, is quite full of vibrant colour and fun! A wonderful treat for Halloween … meet the vampire who is more about giggles and glitter than bring beastly and bitter, a Dracula boy who wants to live life in technicolour. This is his story: it is a story of spookiness as well as sparkle, of bravery and kindness and above all else being sure of and proud to be who you are.

A pair of books next – the Mrs Blackhat duo from Mick and Chloe Inkpen (Hachette Children’s Books). In Mrs Blackhat and Mrs Blackhat and the ZoomBroom meet a witch who is not really quite sure what she is supposed to do with a ginger cat and a magical broomstick! Two wonderfully funny and cleverly rhyming picture books to delight readers this autumnal Halloween.

Moving onto fiction for the slightly older, more independent reader, who may still wish to share to avoid too many horrors there are a couple of treats to dive into here.

Lottie Luna and The Bloom Garden by Vivian French, illustrated by Nathan Reed

In this brand new series for younger children meet Lottie Luna, werewolf extraordinaire. Lottie’s first story is beautifully illustrated throughout in black and white and helps us, the reader, to discover why Luna is more than ordinary, she is extra-ordinary … born on the night of a solar eclipse Luna has super-strength, super-speed and super-vision powers! Luna wants to be normal, she doesn’t like her skills (though they can help her get out of trouble) but … when the school bloom garden needs help Luna is the one to jump into action … an uplifting and exciting new adventure series with a new character.

The second book in Victoria Schwab’s series set in the very haunted Edinburgh follows a family of ghost hunters and television presenters whose daughter really can see, feel and hear ghosts and gets herself into some terribly scary scrapes as she crosses the veil and is drawn into a dark and sinister other world. Moving from and between Edinburgh and Paris this is a seriously spooky, yet at times also light-hearted and fun, read.

Seen the movie? Read the book … The Addams Family: The Story of the Movie, written by Calliope Glass, perfect for Halloween with its spookiness … the Addamses are a ghoulish family who love nothing more than a spot of the gothic and a splash of the macabre whilst being completely unaware of how bizarre their neighbours believe them to be! This story finds the family preparing for a major get-together whilst also trying to prevent a crafty reality TV host from sneaking up on them …

Now to probably my favourite set of short stories this year and Enid Blyton’s Tales of Tricks and Treats with over 30 short stories to enjoy – and yes they are only a handful of pages long, there are delights here for all and it is easy to dip in and out but at the same time get caught up with ‘just another’ story! My favourite so far has to be the naughty wizard who steals stockings, hides them in the woods and then discovers that in Autumn this may not be the best of hiding places! Great fun and lots of laughs with this very seasonal collection.

Nelly the Monster Sitter is back for another monster sitting adventure and escapade and this time she is with a family of matches – harder than it sounds when one of them has a bad reaction to the unknown – he literally ignites on every occasion. Very much a ‘don’t try this at home’ type of book but one that is full of laughs, some great black and white sketches and takes the reader on another exploration of the weird and wonderful world that is Nelly’s monster sitting business.

The Night’s Realm by Nick Ward asks the reader are you brave enough to face your fears? Is Billy brave enough to face his fears? But what is the fear that Billy has to face? It is a secret, one that he doesn’t want anyone to know … Billy is terrified of the dark and when he is trapped by an evil magician in a land of darkness his worst nightmare seems to have come true. Sounds scary but this is an uplifting story with enchanting storytelling and illustration making it uplifting and sharing a message about bravery and self-belief.

All this reading may be too much for some and others may want to have some hands on activity for their parties or also just for this time of year – clubs at school, clubs out of school (I know a friend’s Beavers group loves these) – so why not dip into the Horrible Craft Book from Button Books for lots of fun things to make and do – some slimy and some just rotten ones too – may need some parental assistance and you may find the parents or other adults enjoying it just as much as you – be warned!

The star of the show for this blog is however the absolutely stunning, large, lift-the-flap format In the House of Madame M. This one had even my husband fascinated by the story, the illustration and the flaps. Not only is it a work of art it is a clever exploration of the senses, an adventure of discovery and a book full of questions about what comes next and what may lie underneath. As we explore a strange house: hallway, living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom we discover that each room is full of surprises to make even the bravest shiver. Are we in the house of an ogre? Or is it a witch? Perhaps it is something else altogether? The perfect combination of humour and creepiness combine for a thoroughly enjoyable read. With lots of flaps and pull tabs hiding jokes and spine-shivering surprises, this visit to Madame M’s house brings the thrill of finding what lurks in the wardrobe, behind the door, tucked under the furniture.

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